Viticulture

Winery upbeat despite virus and bushfires

By John Lewis

Tahbilk Winery near Nagambie remains upbeat about its 2020 vintage and its continuing exports to China despite the challenges of coronavirus and bushfires earlier this year.

Tahbilk chief executive Alister Purbrick said the winery on the banks of the Goulburn River had overcome many hurdles during its 160-year history and it would weather the current pandemic with confidence.

“We’re nearing the end of a good vintage which has run reasonably smoothly, all things considered.

“We welcomed some European backpackers to our vintage team and they will remain in Australia for the time being.

“They’re now part of the wider Tahbilk family and we’re delighted they’re here,” Mr Purbrick said.

He said the pandemic had affected tourism and travel at Tahbilk, with the restaurant closed for meals and the cellar door unable to conduct tastings.

However, Mr Purbrick said online wine sales continued and the cellar door remained open to locals for retail purchases.

“Of course we are observing strict hygiene and social distancing guidelines, but we’re still here to serve,” Mr Purbrick said.

He predicted a strong return for the winery once the pandemic was over.

He said there were no infections among staff and the broader Tahbilk community and that the wine industry was considered "essential", helping business to continue.

He also said the winery was unaffected by bushfires earlier this year.

“Mother Nature has been kind with no smoke taint-affected grapes in the vineyards,” Mr Purbrick said.

He said export sales to China were also picking up after a complete shutdown during the height of the coronavirus outbreak.

He said February and March sales into mainland China were strong with a shift in the mix of the wines being ordered.

“China is coming back strongly and quickly for us and it’s great to see given the many years and resources we’ve spent building our brand in that market.

“What we have noticed is a shift towards the purchase of our premium portfolio, with our iconic 1860 Vines Shiraz and Old Vines Cabernet Shiraz being particularly popular, showing that Chinese consumers are keen for quality drops after a lull in their quality of life,” Mr Purbrick said.

He said while some of the winery's 160th birthday celebrations had been postponed, it was "planning for the party to end all parties next year".